Archive | February, 2013

Heavyweights (1995)

27 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

In the film “Heavyweights,” an eleven-year-old overweight kid named Gerry believe his summer is ruined when his parents toss him into a summer camp for fat kids. At first, he feels like he’s just been made fun of and is not very serious about losing weight. But then he sees that none of the other kids are interested in losing weight, and in their home cabin they keep a treasure trove of goodies.

However, the fun ends after a few hours into the first day when the friendly owners of the camp announce their retirement, and taking their place is a fitness guru named Tony Perkis, who wants these kids to lose weight and fast so he can make an infomercial about a fat camp that actually succeeds in its original purpose. So he makes life at camp hell for these kids.

OK, that’s the setup for “Heavyweights,” a family movie about summer camp that is surprisingly funny and appealing…right up until the overly predictable final half. This is a movie in which the kids get their victory, but not by conquering the crazed fitness guru’s dictation. No, they get their victory by beating the more athletic campers of a sports camp in an obstacle course and go-cart race. Why? Did the writer run out of ideas? Could the filmmakers have come up with anything but the overly predictable, unnecessary “big game” ending? Why did this have to happen?

I was having fun with a lot of the material before that ending. The kids are good comic actors—especially Aaron Schwartz as the central character Gerry, Shaun Weiss as the cooler fat kid Josh, and Kenan Thompson as their friend Roy. The adult cast has fun with their roles—especially Tom McGowen as camp veteran Pat, Tom Hodges as a Schwarzenegger-type named Lars, and Paul Feig as a skinny counselor named Tim. And there are multiple one-liners that made me laugh out loud, even when there are summer-camp clichés in the script, such as when the kids go to a dance. I also liked that these kids were not portrayed in a condescending way at all—they’re just regular kids who want to have fun but are sidetracked by Tony Perkis.

Oh, I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention the actor who plays Perkis. As Perkis, Ben Stiller is phenomenally entertaining. This performance has to be seen to be believed. Perkis has a mocking attitude that is part-Fonzie and part-Wayne from “Wayne’s World” and just plain silly. He is also psychotically energetic. But it should be no surprise that Ben Stiller has comedy in his genes. His parents are Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, a husband-and-wife comedy team who also make an appearance as the original camp owners. (I mentioned there are great one-liners in the script, one of which is when Jerry Stiller says one final piece of advice to the kids: “Never let anyone sign your checks!”)

But then the film sinks when it reaches up to the sentimental, feel-good “big game” ending that did not work at all, not in the slightest bit. Maybe it was to be expected, since we learn from the ads that the film was created “from the creator of ‘The Mighty Ducks.’” But I still can’t figure out why the creator wanted this movie—which had fun leading up to it—to end with such a clichéd scene with nothing new or original at all. This ending to “Heavyweights” forces me not to recommend it.

Rocky II (1979)

27 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Here is a sequel that works—one that delivers the goods and doesn’t deliver just the same material that you’ve seen in the original. This is the sequel to the Oscar-winning film “Rocky,” which starred (and was written by) Sylvester Stallone in a knockout performance as the boxer Rocky Balboa who also has a life aside from fighting. In that movie, what made the movie really special was that great leading performance, as well as the supporting performances of truly original characters. Now, here’s “Rocky II”—the characters are back and just as fresh as they were before. “Rocky II” probably isn’t as great as the original film (I gave that four stars), but it’s still an effective movie.

Sylvester Stallone directs and writes this sequel, and reprises his leading role again. Rocky Balboa is a true original—his personality and his actions are unlike any other movie character that came before. He talks street-smart and ends a lot of his sentences with “ya know,” and he’s really a nice guy. He also has a sense of humor in the way that sometimes, he doesn’t know he’s funny. And when he fights in the boxing ring, it’s just something he feels like doing for a hobby. He’s not a bad guy at all. Stallone lives and breathes this character and makes him just as lovable as he was in the original “Rocky.”

“Rocky II” picks up where the original film left off. If you recall, in the original film, Rocky Balboa (“The Italian Stallion”) had the chance to fight the heavyweight-boxing champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). If you don’t recall, the last scene of the original film is played as the opening scene of this film. Rocky doesn’t win the fight—in fact, he barely survives it. His intensity, and willingness to keep going, had people cheering for him. Those qualities also got his girlfriend Adrian (Talia Shire) to say, “I love you.”

In “Rocky II,” Apollo is very disappointed in everyone’s praises for Rocky that he demands a rematch. But Rocky is more interested in raising a family. He and Adrian wind up married and Adrian winds up pregnant. Rocky isn’t regretful of any of this—he is excited about it. He wonders what the kid will be like, if it’s a boy or a girl.

Rocky also has to get a job to support Adrian and his child, not born yet. Being the “Italian Stallion” who refused to go down in the fight with Apollo, Rocky has an opportunity to star in many commercials and get paid big bucks. Unfortunately, he has a bit of trouble reading. There is a great comic scene in which he reads off the cue cards in deadpan—he’s not messing with the director; he’s just sincerely screwing up.

But Apollo, being the pompous man that he is, demands a rematch. He goes out of his way to humiliate Rocky to the point where Rocky has to accept. This leads to more training with Mickey (Burgess Meredith), the gym owner who trained Rocky in the original film. This also leads to more support from Adrian and her mildly-annoying (but mostly funny) brother Paulie (Burt Young), who is still loyal but somewhat bitter; however, there is a scene in which he is more resentful, but I will not give away why.

The characters are given room to grow and they make up for the probability that the film is not particularly well-shot. Though to Stallone’s credit, he’s trying. There are some great lines of dialogue (some written by Stallone, the others improvised by him) and moments of humor and touching sadness. They, along with the characters (especially Rocky), make “Rocky II” a worthy sequel.

The Mummy (1999)

27 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“The Mummy” is a special-effects action movie that is not by any means a great piece of work, hardly anywhere in the same league as “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It’s trash, yes, but it is good trash that entertained me from start to finish. I had a good time with this silly action flick.

Actually, beneath the action/adventure elements, there is a great deal of comedy—so much that you have to wonder if the filmmakers were intending on creating a parody of these action-adventure stories. To take “The Mummy” seriously would be as ridiculous as anything the story has to offer. As a thriller, it doesn’t work. As a campy, special-effects filled, funny action movie, “The Mummy” does work. I wasn’t bored in the two hours of the film’s running time. I was very entertained.

The film begins with a flashback to (“insert year here”) BC with heavy-handed narration from a very deep voice within scenes that explain the back story to us. We all love it when that happens, don’t we? We also love it when the narrator informs us that a mummy will rise.

Then we flash forward to many centuries later to the early 1920s in Cairo. A clumsy British librarian named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and her immature, pickpocketing brother Jonathan (John Hannah) have found a map that leads to the lost city of Hamunaptra in Egypt, also known as “The Land of the Dead” (whoa, not a good sign). Joined by American adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), they decide to take a trip down there to retrieve a lost treasure within its tombs. But also racing to retrieve the treasure is a band of American fortune hunters, led by a nervous traitor named Beny (annoyingly played by Kevin J. O’Connor with a less-than-convincing Arabic accent). Threatening to kill both teams to protect the treasure is a band of black-robed horsemen.

While down there, Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan come across an ancient sarcophagus and a book known as the “Book of the Dead.” (Uh-oh.) And wouldn’t you know it? They open the book, unleashing the ten plagues of Egypt, although I only counted less than 10 that actually happen in this movie—I’ve seen fireballs, locusts, blood flowing in rivers, earthquakes, and flies. There are also many, many flesh-eating beetles, although I’m unsure if they’re part of the plagues or if they just live in the caves. Also unleashed from the grave is the mummy Prince Imhotep, which starts out as a disgusting skeleton, but can reproduce organs just by taking them from the rival American team. Once he is complete, he will raise his dead girlfriend and rule the world. Of course Evelyn is captured by the mummy, which causes Rick to set out and “save the girlfriend, kill the bad guy, and save the world.”

All of this is good dumb fun. As I mentioned above, there is also a great deal of comedy within the action/adventure stuff. One of the best moments is at the beginning, in which we get a glimpse of Evelyn’s clumsiness—she accidentally knocks over a bookshelf and the rest of the shelves come crashing down, much like the domino effect. Another funny bit is when she hears a strange noise in the museum: “Abdul? Mohammed? Bob?” There are many other funny moments like those; I won’t give away all of them. There is also a heavy amount of action that didn’t bore me, mainly because we have a likable hero in this series of battles with mummies, most of which are comical. Brendan Fraser plays Rick as a low-rent Indiana Jones and he has fun with the character and performance. Also fun to watch is Rachel Weisz as his could-be girlfriend—she projects a great deal of comedic timing.

The special effects work very well. That really does look like a decomposing mummy threatening to kill the main characters and conquer the world. But a flaw in “The Mummy” is that it seems like a half-hour too long. “Men in Black,” which also featured special effects and a comic undertone, featured the best it could with a half-hour too short of running time. But “The Mummy” maybe needed less of a good time. But even during tidbits of the final climax, such as when Jonathan is stumbling trying to help “save the day,” I wasn’t bored. To sum it up, I was entertained by “The Mummy,” even when the dumbness took over the thriller aspects. It’s a fun ride that I do not regret taking.

Winter’s Bone (2010)

26 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Ree Dolly is an unflinching, tough, 17-year-old Southern girl who does not take “no” for an answer and believes that anything not offered shouldn’t be asked for. She acts as a parent to her two younger siblings, while her real mother is mentally absent and her father, a meth cooker, is arrested. She cares for them all (except her father, of course) with welfare and help from a friendly neighbor—they all live in the backlands of the Ozarks, near the Arkansas border line. She is also the most engaging movie heroine in a long time. In Debra Granik’s film, “Winter’s Bone,” she is forced to carry a task to save her family’s property. She is an ordinary person who must rise to an occasion.

The conflict: Ree’s father, who was arrested for cooking meth, is missing and he put everything on bond, including the family house. Ree is visited by the sheriff, who tells her on the house porch that if her dad doesn’t show up at court, she and her family lose the house. She looks into the woods in thought when the sheriff asks, “You got someplace to go?” She says, “I’ll find him.” The sheriff doesn’t believe her—“Girl, I been lookin’.” She looks back at him and sternly repeats, “I said I’ll find him.” And just like that, she sets out to question many family members for clues or answers as to where her father is.

The whole family, except for Ree who would want her siblings to never fall into the habit as well, cooks methamphetamine and keeps to themselves. They give wary looks to outsiders (like the sheriff and the bond trader) who visit Ree and constantly remind her that the house will no longer be their property. Ree’s uncle Teardrop doesn’t know where his brother is and advises Ree not to go looking for him either. But she does, and this leads to brutal confrontations—one of which brings a league of mountain women to beat her hard. (When she comes to, she asks if they’ll kill her. One of them says they were thinking about it.) It seems like this search will jeopardize her life, but she will never stop looking for her father, dead or alive.

“Winter’s Bone” was filmed on location in one of the bleakest of living environments. Living in the backlands of the Ozarks, the rural area looks like it used to a town but is now caught in a Depression-type state. There are houses, but there are also shacks, sheds, and piles of junk almost all around. With only a few modern conveniences, the locals live here in relaxation. But from another perspective, it’s depressing rather than relaxing. I loved how director Debra Granik framed every shot to make us see something new about this place. Ree has lived here her whole life and is becoming a strong, independent woman and her younger siblings are as cheerful as they can be, without knowing what misfortune they have. This may not be true, but maybe the reason that the mother is mentally absent is because of the depression of her surroundings—maybe she realized the difficulty of her situations in parenting and couldn’t take it anymore. Maybe. But anyway, the rest of the people in this rural area are suspicious, violent, and cold-hearted.

Ree Dolly is played by Jennifer Lawrence in an excellent, star-making performance. There is no wrong note in this performance. She has a convincing, forceful personality that really brings this character to life. Also very effective is John Hawkes, as fearsome uncle Teardrop, and Dale Dickey as one of the mountain women who challenges Ree, and also assaults her midway through the film. There are other effective performances from amateur actors who make their first appearances in this film and it’s amazing to see how natural they are—there is no cliché dealing with their characters.

“Winter’s Bone” has suspense, a compelling main character, intriguing supporting characters, a murky look to the Ozarks, and a story worth telling. To me, this is one of the best movies of 2010 and I certainly hope this film is remembered as years go by, most notably for Jennifer Lawrence’s flawless portrayal of an ordinary person rising to the occasion.

NOTE: “Winter’s Bone” also won the Grand Jury Prizes at Sundance for “Best Picture” and “Best Adapted Screenplay.” It also won the Golden Rock Award at the Little Rock Film Festival—at the awards gala (I won an award there too—a screenwriting award), I was fortunate enough to meet Shelley Waggener, the actress who played Sonya, the friendly neighbor who helps Ree and her family.

Dredd (2012)

26 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I never considered “Judge Dredd” a household name when it comes to comic book lovers, but then again, I myself am not a comic book lover (not that there’s anything wrong with being one), so I’m not one to talk. Maybe there is a fan base out there, though I’m certain if there is, they didn’t take well to the cheesiness of the 1995 film adaptation “Judge Dredd,” starring Sylvester Stallone as the title character. That being said, this 2012 “second try” to adapt the comic book series—simply entitled “Dredd” or “Dredd 3D”—is probably the best film adaptation those people could ask for.

To put it simple, “Dredd” is a heavily-stylized, extremely-violent action film that kicks ass. It’s an insanely forceful thrill ride from start to finish, with a dose of intense violence mixed with dark comic streaks. Once the action picks up, it never lets up—in fact, by the time this movie was over, I was exhausted by what was being thrown at me.

It’s an odd thing for me to say “being thrown at me,” since I didn’t wind up seeing it in 3D. Speaking of which, I’m glad I didn’t. Forget that 3D kind of makes things unbearable in movies; even if “Dredd” did it right, I would still be suffering vertigo nonetheless. We get towering, hovering, panning shots above and below great tower heights, among many instinctual visuals done greatly by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. His artistic style to “Dredd” is unbelievable and the action scenes, as a result, are suitably graphic and well-choreographed. “Dredd” is a visual treat, to say the absolute least.

But it’s also not for the faint of heart. An example of this style comes early in the film (and which makes a few reprisals here and there)—you don’t just see a bullet enter someone’s face; you see every blood drop explode outward, in slow-motion.

The story takes place in the future, which of course sucks. It’s always lousy in the future in the movies, isn’t it? In this “cursed Earth,” a dystopian large city, the law enforcers serve as judge, jury, and executioner all in one. The baddest of them all is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban)—with a cool uniform, a helmet that covers the top half of his face (we never see him take the thing off), and a cold, monotone voice recalling Clint Eastwood and Batman.

Karl Urban is unrecognizable as Dredd. That’s not just because we never see his face partially covered by that helmet, leaving his mouth and chin exposed, but because of his deep growl and his deadpan persona. You’d never link this man to the 2009 “Star Trek” (he played young Bones McCoy). He’s also grimly funny too, as he delivers one-liners in the most depraved situations he runs into, providing some very big laughs.

Also a lot of fun is Olivia Thirlby, best known for her indie roles as “Juno’s” best friend and the pretty high school girlfriend in “Snow Angels.” Here, she plays a blonde mop-haired psychic “mutie” (slang for “mutant” in this world—I guess stealing “muto” from “Waterworld” was too much) who becomes the rookie Judge Anderson. Thirlby displays a calm (yet somewhat ethereal) yet confident screen presence, whether it’s looking danger in the eyes or through their heads (because she has the power to enter your mind and mess with it to seek information—now that’s awesome). She’s a ton of fun and delivers some badass moments as well. She is no damsel in distress.

The real story begins as Dredd and Anderson respond to a disturbance at the 200-tower Peach Trees housing complex and interrupt a party where the latest drug is being used—a drug that allows everything in your perspective to slow down time (this is where a lot of slow-motion visual styles come into place). Facial-scarred drug-lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) has been killing her subjects by enforcing the drug onto them, and pushing them out the window from the top floor, making their fall seem longer than it is. Dredd and Anderson take a suspect (Wood Harris) into custody. Knowing that they will interrogate him for information, Ma-Ma forcefully arranges for the entire building to be locked down and insists that she’ll keep it this way until the Judges are caught and killed.

This sets up a series of events that lead to close calls, strikebacks, shootouts, and just about everything else you’d expect to see here. “Dredd” pulls out all the stops and then some. This film is alive with energy as Dredd and Anderson find new ways to outsmart the heavily dangerous thugs looking to shoot anything that moves. But it’s OK—the Judges have specially designed guns that have voice command and many features (automatic fire, stun, double-whammy, and more). That gives them advantages that lead to some impressive developments.

“Dredd” is violent, bloody, heavily-stylized…and it’s just so freaking cool. There’s never a dull moment, it’s visually exciting, the action is top-notch, and it’s just an intense thrill ride from beginning to end. I look forward to a sequel, and I think there will be one, seeing as how audiences are hungry for mindless entertainment. I guess I could describe “Dredd” as precisely that, but that would be considered an understatement. This movie just kicks ass.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

26 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

When you team up a pair of comic actors in a movie, there’s either a danger of going over the top or not having enough chemistry on screen. But Steve Martin and John Candy are perfectly cast and are in a script that doesn’t let them down and carry the film, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” greatly. There is chemistry here and they never go over the top.

The film is about a road trip featuring two strangers who have to be home for Thanksgiving and will get there any way they can—planes, trains, or automobiles. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, an uptight advertising salesman trying to get from New York to Chicago. During rush hour (and two days before Thanksgiving), he has a hard time finding a cab in the city and when he finally flags one down, it is stolen (unintentionally) by Del Griffith (John Candy), a traveling shower-curtain-ring salesman. He’s also from Chicago. When the two men meet at the airport, Del feels genuinely sorry for stealing Neal’s cab. Neal tells him to forget it. But as fate would have it, Neal and Del wind up trapped in each other’s company, on the plane and off.

This leads to a night in which the two land in Wichita, Kansas, since a snowstorm has hit the O’Hare airport in Chicago. “We’d have a better chance of playing pick-up sticks with our butt cheeks than getting a flight out of here tonight,” Del tells Neal. And this also leads to a night at a motel…but their room is a single. That’s right—one bed. In one of the funniest scenes in the film, Neal and Del wake up the next morning cuddled against each other. (“Why are you holding my hand?” “Where’s your other hand?” “Between two pillows.” “Those aren’t pillows!”)

And as the film goes on, Neal and Del continue to make their way home, while Neal tries multiple times to get rid of Del. But there’s nothing that can separate them forever. In one of the best scenes in the film, they wind up renting a car and driving at night together when they don’t realize that they are going the wrong way on an expressway. This results in what is probably the only funny joke that a movie can make about a car and two oncoming trucks.

“Planes, Trains & Automobiles” is written by John Hughes, who also serves as director and producer, and it’s a pleasant surprise, considering that John Hughes specializes in teenage comedies and apparently searched for something more. So now he has “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” a movie featuring a road trip with a great deal of character development and physical comedy. John Hughes had written a comedy about a road trip before (1983’s “Vacation”). This film is even better because the comedy is based on character and reveals heart and truth.

For example, we have the scene in which Neal snaps at Del that night in the motel in Wichita. He shows no mercy, telling Del that he doesn’t know how to tell an interesting story and that he would rather attend an insurance seminar than listen to another one of his anecdotes again. He goes on and on, as Del doesn’t show anger. His face falls; he’s genuinely sad and hurt. He realizes that he was so eager to please and has tried too hard. It’s a scene that reveals comedy and drama in the way that it reveals heart and truth. And that’s not even close to the end of the film, even though it could be the end of a short film (and feels like it, too). It’s this point in which Del wins our hearts and we enjoy watching him through the rest of the film. As for Neal, he learns about patience and slowly but surely develops a friendship with Del.

This is where the film really shines—Steve Martin and John Candy are absolutely great together and they play characters that are funny and empathetic. They’re the classic Odd Couple—one is ordinary and wound up while the other is a slob but more outgoing. But if I didn’t make it clear in the paragraph above, they don’t play caricatures. They play three-dimensional human beings.

“Planes, Trains & Automobiles” leads to the emotional payoff in the final scenes. After all we’ve seen of these two characters and been through what they’ve been through, you’d expect a great payoff. Luckily, this film has one in the way that it gives us exactly what we needed for this material.

NOTE: This film is rated R by the MPAA. Well, I’ll tell you this—fast-forward through the scene midway through the film in which Neal confronts a car rental agent played by Edie McClurg. That scene has the only times you’ll hear the F word—19 times, in fact. Omit that scene and the film is good viewing for the whole family on Thanksgiving night.

Children of Men (2006)

26 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“This is how the world will end…this is how the world will end…this is how the world will end…not with a bang but with a whimper.” –T.S. Eliot

That is exactly what is happening to the world in the action film “Children of Men,” a bleak, action-packed, wicked thriller that takes place in the year 2027. The Earth has become practically uninhabitable and anarchic. Natural disasters, terrorism, and war have brought the world to hell. All borders are closed permanently, which means anyone who tries to step into new territory is declared an illegal immigrant and forced to go with others to a prison where they will eventually be executed. But it gets worse—humans have become infertile. It is exceedingly rare for a woman to be pregnant. As the movie opens, a newscast informs us that the world’s youngest person (at age 18) is dead. With this knowledge, you can sense that in a few decades, the human race will become extinct. Soon, others will die until the last man on Earth will die. No one else will go on because there are no more births. That is the subtext throughout “Children of Men” and it’s a profoundly creepy one.

The movie takes place in England, where a man named Theo (Clive Owen) gets a coffee one morning and sees the newscast about the death of the youngest person on the planet. He then steps outside to wait for a bus when suddenly, the coffee house explodes! Not only is this surprising, but watch Theo’s reactions to the destruction. At first, we see him as this ignorant tough guy we see in a lot of action movies. But when the coffee house explodes, he shows off a real sense of fear—he is startled by this occurrence, as anyone would be.

Theo has his way of showing concern about this now-damaged world, but he prefers to think about being with his pot-smoking best friend Jasper (a bewigged Michael Caine, wonderfully cast), who is even more ignorant of more or less…everything. But he is soon captured by his former wife Julian (Julianne Moore) and her associate Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who are part of a rebellion against the now-corrupt government (or what’s left of a government). They need Theo to help them to smuggle a young African woman named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) out of the country to a place where she might be safe from everyone else. (It is said that there is a ship called The Tomorrow, which rescues and harbors said “illegal immigrants”). This woman needs to be protected because she holds the key to the future of Earth’s society. Theo doesn’t realize why Kee is so important until after a few angry run-ins with wild townspeople and the police. It turns out Kee is pregnant—the first baby to be born in 18 years. “Now you know what’s at stake here,” Luke calmly explains to Theo.

Soon, Theo and Kee are on the journey to get past the border unseen and unharmed. But of course, this is not going to be easy. They are pursued by many people (including security troops) and partake in many action sequences. But these scenes are so convincing—so well-executed—that you realize just what they’re about. You never forget what is at stake in this story. Director Alfonso Cuaron (who also directed “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) has an amazing visual style and executes every action sequence well, and I love how a lot of these scenes are in a single ongoing shot. Every action scene is desperate and with purpose. Cuaron knows how to stage this kind of situation and Clive Owen captures the sense of fear and desperation. Owen is ultimately solid in this movie. He has a cool attitude, yet has a sense of vulnerability that he doesn’t show but you can tell during certain shots.

I love the way the storyline of “Children of Men” develops into something bigger than it began with. When the movie opens, we already sense the world ending because of humanity’s wasting away. Now when Kee arrives and needs to be saved, we see that the world can either remain the way it is (maybe even worse) or be preserved for a new generation. It all depends on Theo’s actions—he has his own demons with his former wife, which haunts him after her arrival.

Also, there is great cinematography. When Theo walks through a desolate London, it looks like a real place. It’s incredible, how the filmmakers were able to make this into a dark, scary place to live in (or even walk in). The settings get darker as Theo goes on this dangerous journey to the border and even through the immigrant prison. It’s all convincing.

“Children of Men” belongs in a class with “Mad Max” and “Blade Runner,” but it may be better than those two references. This is a movie that shows an even darker approach to futuristic fiction and serves as a cautionary tale. It shows a world that is indeed not ending with a bang but with a whimper.